Our fellow Jews are sick. They don’t admit it. They don’t even know it. Yet the malady is grave. “The most destructive, painful, most contagious disease of all,” Rabbi Noah Weinberg said, “is ignorance. Ignorance perverts people and leads to wasted, counterproductive lives. Ignorance causes untold suffering — mistreatment of children, marital strife and suffering in a dead-end job.”
When it came time to choose a charity project for his September 2014 bar mitzvah, Ben Moody knew he wanted to support a cause close to his heart. “We’re always on our boat and at the beach, and we love the water,” Moody, 12, said of his Westlake Village family. He counts surfing and bodyboarding as some of his favorite activities. “I love the beach and everything about it,” he said.
On Saturday, two weeks after Ethan Kadish’s 13th birthday, the members of his family will gather around a Torah scroll in the chapel of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for a small ceremony marking his entrance into adulthood.
Last week I penned a column about a Bar Mitzvah party video that had been circulating on the Web. I was incensed not only at the video, but the currency it had achieved, making it appear that this was a paradigm of Jewish celebrations.
The egregious, licentious and thoroughly awful video that is circulating ‘celebrating’ a Bar Mitzvah contains so much that is offensive that it requires restraint to hold oneself to three ways in which this display slaughters the spirit. Still, in the face of excess what could be more appropriate than abstinence? So here are only three of the worst things about this travesty:
My bat mitzvah invitation had bright purple embossed text on a hot- pink card with my name enlarged in decorative script at the top and daisies adorning the bottom.
For most boys reaching bar mitzvah age, donning a prayer shawl is exciting enough. But Sam Horowitz of Dallas knew he wanted more.
Back when I was growing up, the modern State of Israel was the center of the Jewish universe. It was at the core of being Jewish, tucked inside the greater American-Jewish identity. There were no contradictions. Jews were solid U.S. citizens, equally proud of their American heritage. But the brutal sting of the Holocaust which had hit home more often than not, made the establishment and continuity of the Jewish state a prerequisite of daily life.
Trisha Roth completed two years of study in order to be ready for her recent bat mitzvah. When the big day came, she wore a tallit that belonged to her late brother. But something else made the experience particularly special.
I was meeting with an upcoming bat mitzvah girl the other day and talking with her about the Torah (what else?). I pointed out all the books that surrounded us in my study and mentioned that as someone who has published five books myself, how thrilled I would be if people were still reading even one of my books 20 years from now.
So you’re planning a bar or bat mitzvah? Mazel tov! You may feel overwhelmed by decisions and details. I certainly did when it was time for my son, Steven, to take part in the ritual this past December. I asked experienced parents for advice and promised to “pay it forward” once I became a seasoned veteran. Here is some of the wisdom I gleaned, along with issues you’ll need to consider.
Every week, dozens of bar mitzvah boys from Israel and the Diaspora celebrate their rite of passage at the Kotel, also known as the Western Wall, which, after the Temple Mount, is Judaism’s holiest site.
Preparing for the complete bar or bat mitzvah experience — the ceremony, the food, the entertainment — can feel like a three-ring circus. So maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that carnivals are one of the hottest themes these days as kids prepare for the biggest party they’ve thrown in their 13 years on the planet.
For interfaith couples who choose a Jewish identity for their families — even ones who have shared holidays with their extended families and answered questions for years — a bar or bat mitzvah raises new questions.
For many teens, a bar or bat mitzvah is not just a rite of passage and an embrace of a community’s Jewish values; it also is an opportunity to make a mark socially by inviting BFFs and other classmates.
“Entourage” star Jeremy Piven remembers his bar mitzvah as “a rite of passage.”
When Isa Aron considers b’nai mitzvah today, she gets the impression that parents — and sometimes synagogues — care more about their son or daughter performing flawlessly when on the bimah than they do about their forming lasting connections to Judaism.
"Hava Nagila” is one of those songs, like “Celebration” and “Auld Lang Syne,” that brings back memories and gets stuck in one’s head. In fact, “Hava Nagila” is so ingrained in American pop culture that many non-Jews can readily identify it, and high-profile non-Jewish recording artists, including Harry Belafonte, Connie Francis and Glen Campbell, count their renditions as a career highlight.
Robert Leeds’ bar mitzvah party last February was something special. During the cocktail hour, Cirque du Soleil entertainers roller-skated on a half-pipe. The celebration — which had a British invasion theme with English guards, a teahouse and traditional pub food — also featured Leeds playing electric guitar with a Beatles tribute band and participating in a breakdance routine with his brothers, Jonathan and Andrew, and an ensemble of dancers.
Fourteen years ago, Catherine and Bruce Penso’s oldest daughter, Leah, was ready to become a bat mitzvah. But before her big day, Leah told her parents that she wanted to go to the mikveh and formally convert.
You're at a wedding or bar mitzvah, mingling at the bar or catching up with a distant relative, when you hear it -- the opening notes of a familiar tune that as if by some invisible force carries you and other guests to the dance floor for the rousing dance circle ritual.
Factor in the enormous guest lists, global cuisine and diversions such as high-tech interactive entertainment, and it is clear that bar and bat mitzvah celebrations have become more sophisticated than they were even a decade ago.
Jack Kessler, 14, completed his mitzvah project last summer by working at a Friendship Circle camp for teens on the autism spectrum. He says the volunteer effort, which some synagogues require of their b’nai mitzvah students, helped him realize his priorities.
“I’m just one of more than 18,000 young people in over 750 congregations worldwide becoming a keeper of the flame of memory in the first post-survivor generation,” Trevor Goodman announced from the bimah during his bar mitzvah speech, referring to his involvement with Remember Us: The Holocaust Bnai Mitzvah Project.
A suburban New York congressman was accused of soliciting donations from a constituent who sought the lawmaker's help in gaining government permits for a bar mitzvah fireworks show.
My 11-year-old son, Ari, is now a Hebrew-school dropout. I am aware that that's the name of a comedy act and a line of T-shirts. But, for me, the phrase is not a punch line, but a punch in the gut. I imagine my response was just like parents whose kids drop out of high school: disbelief, sadness and helplessness followed quickly by a healthy dose of Jewish guilt. "Where did I go wrong?" "What did I do to cause him to reject my contribution to his heritage?"
The nerve-wracking morning of a bar or bat mitzvah will eventually be all that's left standing between a student and his or her catered night of extravagant partying. The b'nai mitzvah coach already has helped detangle the Hebrew and trope, but the pressure of reading the Torah portion and haftarah, as well as delivering a speech in front of hundreds of family members, friends and congregants, might make even a usually unassuming bimah look terrifying.
My bat mitzvah invitation had bright purple embossed text on a hot pink card with my name enlarged in decorative script at the top and daisies adorning the bottom. Twenty-plus years later, I remember eagerly waiting for my friends to receive the invitations and running home weeks later to check the mailbox for the return of the RSVP envelopes. Secured in a scrapbook, the invitation is a treasured memento.
Actor David Arquette had a spontaneous bar mitzvah at the Western Wall while in Israel filming his new show for the Travel Channel.
The grandson of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali became a bar mitzvah at a Philadelphia synagogue.
After a Jerusalem-area’s religious council allowed a female Reform rabbi to participate in its proceedings, some advocates of liberal Judaism in the country are hailing their inroads into the Orthodox-dominated religious infrastructure.
Its thirteenth year, Big Sunday, the Mitzvah Day that has grown into a full weekend of volunteer opportunities, takes place this weekend, May 4, 5 and 6. Last year some 50,000 people showed up to participate in community service projects throughout California, according to Big Sunday organizers, and a similar number are expected to participate again this year.
Milton “Muttie” Siegel celebrated his bar mitzvah in 1937 at the Breed Street Shul, the largest synagogue in Boyle Heights.
Who is the hero of a bar or bat mitzvah? It’s the 13-year-old, who, after a day of chanting, speaking and being bear-hugged by distant relatives, sees himself or herself imbued with powers of memory, eloquence and forbearance far beyond that of ordinary teenagers. But how do you help yours to hold on to that feeling?
At his recent bar mitzvah, Noah Genco-Kamin managed to tell one of the most well-known stories in the Jewish canon — that of the Israelites wandering in the desert after the Exodus — in a way that no one present had heard it told before: from the perspective of a cow.
Think of what might happen to the Jewish calendar if literary scholars got their hands on it. Tisha B’Av would be classified as a tragedy, Tu B’Shevat would come under the heading of the pastoral, and Yom Kippur could serve as a soliloquy. But what would the bar mitzvah ceremony be? The answer is obvious: a comedy.
Forty-five years after his bar mitzvah, Edward L. Moskowitz could not find the photos. They were lost in his garage, in a box, among shelves of such boxes, and were his only remaining evidence of a Shabbat he had shared in the mid-1960s with Marty November, his bar mitzvah partner.
Jacob Tragarz didn’t take the easy route when it came to his mitzvah project — he went big. The 12-year-old student decided to raise awareness about the suffering and violence in Darfur by organizing an assembly for nearly 700 of his peers at Marshall Fundamental High School, a public school in Pasadena.
Jewish Canadian actor Seth Rogen sat down recently with the South African Times and shared some personal facts about himself and what he has learned over the years.
Everyone warned me that bar mitzvah planning was incredibly stressful — the time, the energy, the cost. I wanted to pass on the whole party thing when it came time for my son J.J.’s bar mitzvah. Just a simple kiddush after the service and then skip town.
A wedding that costs $100,000? A bar mitzvah that costs $20,000? When did extravagance and luxury become such primary Jewish values? I can’t remember the last simcha (Jewish celebration) I attended at which there were not tremendous amounts of wasted food, overly expensive napkins and bands large enough for a royal banquet.
While most teenagers are notorious for clashing with parents over their perceived rude behavior, Jonah Li-Paz may actually draw more sighs from his family for being overly polite.
Branko Lustig, 78, two-time Oscar-winner for “Schindler’s List” and “Gladiator,” will celebrate his bar mitzvah on May 2 at Auschwitz, in front of Barrack 24. He missed his rite of passage as a 13-year-old because at the time he was a prisoner in the very same barrack, having been deported from his Croatian hometown to the death camp when he was 10.
The following is a random sampling from my e-mail inbox: From synagogue: Did you receive the form for the Oneg Shabbat luncheon, which will follow Jake’s bar mitzvah? We sent the original in May. Please return it with your check as soon as possible.
Indeed, bar or bat mitzvah training today has become increasingly reliant on technology to complement learning — from YouTube videos of kids chanting and online lessons with a cantor or tutor to on-the-go studies with an iPod.
With apologies to Monty Python, the day can best be described as, “And Now for Something Completely Different.” The guests started filing in, anticipating the usual bar mitzvah service at our cozy little temple — maybe the only one named for a city that carries the name of a saint: The Santa Monica Synagogue. Temple members, as well as family and friends who attended our other children’s b’nai mitzvahs, knew what to expect when they arrived. They’d find a physically small but big-of-heart place featuring an amiable guitar-strumming young cantor, Steve Hummel, and a rabbi, Jeffrey Marx, who is as good at telling shtetl stories as Sholom Aleichem.
Ryan Gurman and Brandon Newberg, both 13, have never met. They live in different parts of Los Angeles, go to different schools, attend different synagogues and celebrated their bar mitzvahs almost a year apart. Yet over the past few months, the young men have shared a common purpose: helping sick and injured children at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
When I walked into an on-call catering job a couple of months ago, I was genuinely thrilled to discover that we would be serving food for a bat mitzvah party. Since I had never had a bat mitzvah — let alone attended one — it seemed like a fun opportunity to create some memories around an event that everyone else seems to remember so fondly from their youth. I pictured a beautiful, ceremonial transition into adulthood for this little girl. I had no idea just how “adult” these little ladies and gentlemen were truly about to become.
Richard Goldstone will attend his grandson's upcoming bar mitzvah in South Africa, following an agreement with local Jewish groups.